Already toured Tokyo and seen the major sights in Kyoto? If you’re looking for a new experience outside the big cities, it's time to seek out some of the undiscovered wonders in Japan’s inaka, or countryside. Four villages in Japan have been included by the UN’s World Tourism Organisation on its annual list of the world's Best Tourism Villages.
This year, the UNWTO’s roundup features 54 villages across the globe, all chosen due to their outstanding tourism initiatives seeking to uphold traditions and culture. The villages included for this year are not ranked, so there’s no number one destination. Read on for the four villages in Japan you should put on your radar.
Biei in Hokkaido is known for its sprawling landscape and scenic beauty. The village is part of Daisetsuzan National Park, Japan’s largest national park, which also happens to be a designated National Special Natural Monument. Owing to this designation, the village actively showcases efforts towards preserving its natural ecosystem.
Part of the Japanese Alps, Hakuba in Nagano prefecture might be best known for its superb skiing conditions during the winter, but the area is also praised for its inclusive tourism and sustainability initiatives. For instance, the village is committed to achieving 100 percent energy self-sufficiency through the use of renewable resources like hydroelectric power.
Tucked away in Matsushima Bay, Miyagi prefecture, you’ll come across Oku-Matsushima. This quaint coastal village has a rich history, with proof of human activity dating back to the prehistoric Jomon and Yayoi periods. The village is also home to the Oku-Matsushima Olle Trail, an environmentally friendly hiking course symbolic of international friendships with sister trails in Kyushu, Jeju island in South Korea and Mongolia.
Shirakawa in Gifu prefecture is one of Japan's most stunning sites, where you'll find traditional gassho-zukuri (thatched-roof) houses designed to withstand the region's harsh winters. By focusing on sustainable conservation efforts to maintain these unique structures, the village has found a way to boost the area's economy through sharing its history while becoming more tourism-oriented.
To see the UNWTO’s full list of villages, visit the website.
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